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Sun Oct 3 14:37:11 UTC 1999

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				Date: Sun, 3 Oct 1999 15:37:11 +0100
				To: linguist at,
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				From: Nicholas Ostler
				<nostler at>
				Subject: ELL: Threat to U'wa Land, Life and
				owner-endangered-languages-l at
				Precedence: bulk
				endangered-languages-l at

				I enclose latest news of a substantive threat
				to the future of the U'wa
				people, who speak a Chibchan language and live
				on the Colombian border with
				Venezuela. This is of legitimate interest to
				linguists and
				environmentalists, as well as any concerned
				with the human cost of economic
				invasion of traditional communities.

				Besides the evident humanitarian threat from
				the incursion of the oil
				industry, with attendant political and
				military hazards, into a largely
				insecure and unpoliceable part of Colombia,
				there is a language
				endangerment aspect.

				If the U'wa carry out their threat to commit
				suicide en masse, that will
				extinguish their line and their language, the
				last survival of the central
				Chibchan  family.  U'wa is the only surviving
				language that is closely
				related to the extinct Chibcha, or Muisca, the
				language of the dominant
				civilization round Bogota, conquered by the
				Spanish in 1536.  Chibcha was
				at first used widely in the colonial
				administration of "New Granada" (as
				this part of thre Spanish Empire was called),
				but died out in the 18th

				I should be happy to correspond with any list
				members who seek further
				background on the human or linguistic
				background to this urgent issue,
				since my own research area is in the
				historical, and present study of this
				language family and its speakers.

				Nicholas Ostler
                       Nicholas   Ostler
						                Foundation for

											                         nostler at

############### U'WA DEFENSE WORKING GROUP ACTION ALERT! ###############

We are seeking an explanation for this progress that goes against life.
We are demanding that this kind of progress stop, that oil exploitation in
the heart of the Earth is halted, that the deliberate bleeding of the Earth
stop...we ask that our brothers and sisters from other races and cultures
unite in the struggle that we are undertaking...we believe that this
struggle has to become a global crusade to defend life.
- Statement of the U.wa people, August, 1998


Contents :
1. Action Alert - Drilling on U'wa Land Imminent
2. Background information on the U.wa struggle

On September 21st Colombia's Environment Minister Juan Mayr announced he
was granting a permit for Occidental Petroleum to begin exploratory
drilling on the U'wa ancestral homelands. The U'wa have denounced the
government's decision as cultural and environmental genocide. This permit
removes the final legal obstacle to Occidental's plans to drill and pushes
the U'wa one step closer to their last resort pledge of committing mass

For several years now the U'wa have been an inspiring symbol of ecological
sanity and indigenous resistance to the oil industry's relentless invasion
of the final remote corners of the planet. The U'wa have maintained their
stand despite harassment, intimidation, a brutal assault on their
spokesperson and the murder of three of their supporters. A worldwide
solidarity movement forced Royal Dutch Shell to withdraw from the project
and has stalled the efforts of LA-based Occidental Petroleum to begin
drilling. Until now. With approval from the Colombian government drilling
on U'wa land is imminent. A global solidarity movement is needed to
pressure the Colombian government and Occidental to cancel the project.

In Colombia where a 30 year civil war has claimed the lives of 25,000
people this decade alone, oil and violence spread hand in hand. Oil
installations are popular targets for the guerillas and as such bring de
facto military occupations along with the inevitable ecological devastation
from ongoing bombing. For the U'wa oil is the blood of Mother Earth and
therefore to drill is the ultimate desecration of their ancient traditions
of living in peaceful balance with the Earth.

The U'wa remain strong in their determination to protect their culture and
sacred homelands but they need your help.



Dr. Ray R. Irani, President and CEO
Occidental Petroleum
10889 Wilshire Blv.
LA, CA 90024
fax +1-310.443.6690
ph. +1-310.208.8800
email : +Los_Angeles-Communications at

Presidente Andres Pastrana
Casa Presidencial
Bogota, Colombia
fax +571.334.1940 (direct) or 202.387.0176 (c/o Embassy in Washington D.C.)
phone (Embassy in D.C.) 202-332-7476
E-mail: pastrana at

Environment Minister Juan Mayr can be reached at :
Juan_Mayr_M at <mailto:Juan_Mayr_M at> or
jmayr at <mailto:jmayr at>


We need to show Occidental AND the Colombian government that activists
around the world will stand with the U'wa to prevent the destruction of
their culture and homeland. The best way to do this is to have a strong
presence at Colombian consulates and embassies around the world. If you
live near a consulate please call them up and ask for a meeting with the

Fact sheets and other campaign materials are available on the RAN website
WWW.RAN.ORG <http://www.RAN.ORG>

Please call or email for hard copies, additional information and to
coordinate your local actions with other supporters. Contact Patrick
Reinsborough at rags at <mailto:rags at> or call us at
+1-415-398-4404 or 1-800-989-RAIN


"We will in no way sell our Mother Earth, to do so would be to give up our
work of collaborating with the spirits to protect the heart of the world,
which sustains and gives life to the rest of the universe, it would be to
go against our own origins, and those of all existence."
- Statement of the U'wa People, August 1998

The U.wa of the Colombian cloud forest are in a life-and-death struggle to
protect their traditional culture and sacred homeland from an oil project
slated to begin on their land at anytime. The U.wa are adamantly opposed to
the drilling and warn that the project will lead to an increase in violence
as seen in other oil regions of Colombia. Despite this, Los Angeles-based
Occidental Petroleum and the Colombian government continue to move forward
with plans to drill. The U.wa have made a call for international support;
now is the time for us to answer.

The U.wa's opposition to the oil project is so strong that they have vowed
to commit collective suicide if Occidental Petroleum and the Colombian
government proceed with the project on their ancestral lands. The U.wa, a
traditional people some 5,000 members strong, explain they prefer a death
by their own hand than the slow death to their environment and culture that
oil production will bring. A core tenet of U.wa culture and spirituality is
the belief that the land that has sustained them for centuries is sacred.
They strongly believe that to permit oil exploration on these sacred lands
would upset the balance of the world. In the words of the U.wa, Oil is the
blood of Mother take the oil is, for us, worse than killing your
own mother. If you kill the Earth, then no one will live.

The U.wa peoples struggle exploded into the public arena last March with
the tragic murders in Colombia of three indigenous rights activists:
Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Laheanee Gay. Terence was one of
the founders of the U'wa Defense Working Group and had devoted the last two
years of his life to supporting the U.wa in their campaign to stop
Occidentals oil project, reclaim their ancestral homeland and protect their
traditional culture. Ingrid and Laheanee were coordinating with the U.wa to
launch an educational project designed to maintain and promote the U.was
traditional way-of-life.

These murders and the intimidation the U'wa have already persevered are but
a harbinger of the wider physical violence the oil project will bring to
their people. Throughout Colombia, oil and violence are linked
inextricably. Occidental's Can~o Limo'n pipeline, just north of U.wa
territory, has been attacked by leftist guerillas more than 600 times in
its 13 years of existence, spilling some 1.7 million barrels of crude oil
into the soil and rivers. The Colombian government has militarized oil
production and pipeline zones, often persecuting local populations the
government assumes are helping the guerrillas. Oil projects have already
taken their toll on many other indigenous peoples of Colombia, including
the Yarique, Kofan and Secoya.

The current drilling plans threaten the survival of both the U.wa and their
environment. The U.was cloud forest homeland in the Sierra Nevada de Cocuy
mountains near the Venezuelan border is one of the most delicate,
endangered forest ecosystems on the planet. It is an area rich in plant and
animal life unique to the region, and the U.wa depend on the balance and
bounty of the forest for their survival. Where oil companies have operated
in other regions of the Amazon basin, cultural decay, toxic pollution, land
invasions and massive deforestation have followed.

Occidental first received an exploration license for the 2 billion barrels
oil field- the equivalent of three months of U.S. consumption -in 1992.
Since then, the U.wa have voiced their consistent opposition to the oil
project. They have taken a variety of actions to halt the project including
the filing of lawsuits against the government in Colombia, petitioning the
Organization of American States to intervene, appealing directly with
Occidentals top executives, and reaching out to company shareholders.

Last April U'wa representatives came to Los Angeles to directly confront
Occidental. Along with several hundred supporters the U'wa marched on Oxy's
HQ and demanded a meeting with CEO Ray Irani. When they were refused entry
activists occupied the street in front of the building and held an
inspirational rally on Oxy's front steps. Two days later on April 30th
while the U'wa spoke at Occidental's shareholder meeting there were
demonstrations at Colombian consulates and embassies around the world.

The U.S has very strong ties with Colombia. Not only does Colombia sell
most of its oil to the U.S. market but under the auspices of the "War on
Drugs" U.S. military aid to the repressive regime in Colombia continues to
grow. This year Colombia received $289 million in aid making them the third
largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world after Israel and Egypt.
The U.S already has hundreds of military advisors in Colombia and the
Clinton administration is proposing to give Colombia an additional $1.5
billion dollars.

In August the Colombian government expanded the U'wa legal reserve. However
the expansion includes only a portion of the U'wa traditional territory and
most significantly the new borders were drawn in such a way as to place the
site of Occidental's first drill site just outside of the reserve
boundaries. The Colombian government can thereby maintain that drilling
will not happen on U'wa land.

With drilling imminent and in the face of mounting violence in the region
the urgency of the U.was struggle has never been so great. The U'wa need
all of us to support them in their struggle. Spread the word. Tell their
story. Educate. Organize. Contact Occidental and the Colombian government.
Demand they cancel the project now!

U.wa Defense Working Group Members:

Amazon Watch, Action Resource Center, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund,
EarthWays Foundation, International Law Project for Human Environmental &
Economic Defense, Project Underground, Rainforest Action Network, Sol

League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations of the Western Hemisphere
mailto:lisn2000 at
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Disclaimer: This material is distributed in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107. All copyrights belong to original publisher. LISN has not
verified the accuracy of the forwarded message. Forwarding this message
does not necessarily imply agreement with the positions stated there-in.

fpcn at
FPCN (Friends of Peoples Close to Nature) is an NDO (Non-Development
Organization), which helps hunters-gatherers to remain as hunters-gatheres.

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